Medical, surgical procedures most common reason for medical indemnity claims

Over one third (34%) of all medical indemnity claims in the public sector arose as a result of a possible error or negligence in medical or surgical procedures.

These claims included failure to perform a procedure, having the wrong procedure performed, having the wrong body site operated on or treated, post-operative complications and failure of a procedure.

These finding were released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in a new report, Medical indemnity national collection (public sector): 2004-2005.

The report, the third of its kind by the AIHW, examines nearly 6,500 current, potential and finalised claims in the public sector between 1 July 2004 and 30 June 2005.

'Other less common, but still significant, claims related to diagnosis (21%) and treatment (15%),' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Samantha Bricknell.

'The three specialty areas with the greatest number of claims were obstetrics (18%), accident and emergency (15%) and general surgery (11%)', she said.

Of all the claims examined, 58% related to adults, 19% to children and 10% to babies less than one year of age. Fifty six per cent of claims related to females.

Dr Bricknell said it was important to note that 'the report represents a profile of medical indemnity claims data only - fault or negligence on the part of the health care provider is not necessarily established.'

During 2004-05 1,680 claims were finalised, of which two thirds were for claims less than $100,000. In 27 cases payments exceeded $500,000.

The average length of time it took to close a claim was 26 months, and court decisions were involved in 4% of finalised claims.

Now in its fourth year, the Medical Indemnity National Collection currently represents 85% of all claims made in the public sector.

'This coverage is expected to improve again next year giving us an even clearer picture of medical claims in Australia,' said Dr Bricknell.